When online gaming becomes an obsession for teens

Gaming addiction, also referred to as tech addiction or technology addiction refers to teens who become obsessed to online games is becoming a common problem that families face.

With the advance in computer graphics and technology, online video games are increasingly more visually enticing to children and teens that are spending more time in front of computer screens playing games.  Mental health experts are noting a trend in problems among these teen gamers.  Among the problems observed include a detachment from the reality of life around them at the expense of school success, development of a social life, physical activity and family responsibilities.  Some teen gamers forego eating and sleeping as they interact with screen characters such as enemy soldiers, zombies, aliens, wizards and monsters.

Video game addiction isn’t just limited to children and teens.  The trend has even been noted in young adult gamers and even married men who spend hours daily engaged in on-line gaming.

Common behaviors among teen and young adult gaming addicts include staying online gaming for seven or eight hours at a time, staying up most of the night playing video games and choosing gaming over social and recreational activities.

Tech addicted teens argue that they are socializing while gaming because they play online with other gamers around the world and suggest that their online friends relate to them more than kids at school or in the neighborhood. They suggest that having relationships with characters in the game is an adequate substitute for face to face interaction with others. For many teen gaming addicts however, the game provides an escape for their struggling social life.  A characteristic of some gamers includes struggles to make and maintain friendships in real life.

Skeptics argue that obsession with video games doesn’t constitute a genuine addiction disputing whether the dependency exhibited is the same type of physical craving triggered by drugs or alcohol.  Parents of video games addicts would offer a differing opinion as the behaviors manifested by their children including lying, arguing, defiance, school failure, negative attitude and laziness are similar to behaviors noted in teens addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The types of games to which teens addict vary from shooter games to sci-fi adventure journeys.  Many agree however that "massive multiplayer online roleplaying games"(MMPORG) as the most addictive. A gamers success in these types of games is entirely dependent on the amount of time the game is played. Occasional gaming playing in MMPORG leaves the gamer behind those who put in more time.  This drives many teen gamers to revolving their life around playing the game.

For parents who are struggling with a teen obsessed with gaming, help is available.  Family Bootcamp is an ideal intervention to assist both the addicted teen and the parents with the implementation of a family plan for managing teen gaming addictions.

What help is available for teens who have a video game addiction?

More than ever before, many teens spend their time in front of a computer or television screen playing video games.  Some skeptics question whether a video game addiction actually exists.  Ask a parent with an addicted child and they will surely attest to the veracity of the addiction.

What is a gaming addiction?

While there is not a formal DSM diagnosis called “video game addiction” it can be classified as an impulse control disorder, and is very similar to pathological gambling.  Video game addiction has also been referred to as video game overuse, excessive gaming, pathological or compulsive use of video games.

Many teens who are video game addicts use the Internet to access massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs).  These games involve networks of individuals, all interacting with one another to play a game in an on-line virtual fantasy world.  Similar to other addictions, teen gaming addicts use these games to associate with others through the Internet, as a replacement for authentic face to face human interaction, which many have been unable to find in their real life.  Many teen gaming addicts develop an emotional attachment to on-line connections who they have never met in real life.

Recent studies on on-line gaming suggest that men and boys are more likely to become addicted to video games versus women and girls.  The study found that nearly one in 10 youth gamers (ages 8-18) can be classified as pathological gamers or addicted to video-gaming.

How can I tell if my child has a video game addiction?

-Marathon gaming episodes-consistently playing longer than originally intended.

-Dishonesty with parents and others in an effort to hide the extent of their gaming.

-Obession with the Game. 

-Using gaming as a sole means of finding satisfaction.

-Repeated, unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop Game use.

-Feelings of restlessness, moodiness, depression, or irritability when attempting to cut down use of the Game.

-Loss of friends, school success and social activity because of gaming

-Using gaming to escape from problems and coping with feelings of hopelessness, guilt, anxiety and depression.

What help is available for gaming addiction?

There is help for teens struggling with a gaming addiction.  Often times, professional treatment is needed.  The Family Bootcamp program offers a five day wilderness expedition for teens and their parents that can be a great way to approach this problem and make changes to disrupt the addiction.  See the Family Bootcamp website for the next expedition dates.

Technology Addictions and Teens

Addiction to the internet, video game addiction and cell phone addiction have become an ever increasing part of our fast paced, technology centered culture. Unfortunately many teens and young adults are drawn in by an obsession with violent video games or simply waste valuable time with countless hours of addictive gaming.

This type of compulsive use of technology is not only wasteful but could also be dangerous for children and teens who find themselves addicted to internet chat rooms where anonymity often leads to bad decisions and further destructive behaviors. Chat room and internet dating addictions often lead to diminished social skills and an inability to relate to others on a personal level.  These problems have become even more severe with increased use of mobile devices. Excessive texting, emailing and instant messaging is becoming more and more common.

Parents are often unaware or naive to the addictive and destructive behaviors of their children or become aware only after addictive and compulsive behavioral patterns have become well established.

Education and prevention of these problems is the best way to help the rising generation of teens learn to manage technology in a responsible way.  A group of therapists in St. George, Utah have developed a unique and powerful intervention for both teens and their parents for assisting in this purpose.  The program is called Family Bootcamp  www.familybootcamp.org and provides a five day therapeutic experience for both parents and child in developing strategies for responsible use of technology in the family.